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After he had arrived at an airport in Madrid, local law enforcement arrested a 29-year-old from Switzerland on an international arrest warrant. He had no idea why Madrid authorities had arrested him, he told the courtroom at the district court in Lörrach, Germany. After two beatings, he said, he understood that a 2015 purchase of counterfeit euros from a darknet market vendor had finally caught up with him. After the court heard the details of his story, even the prosecution agreed upon a lenient sentence for the man. He returned home to Switzerland, sentenced only to six months probation.
“I did not think much about it, I told myself,” the defendant told the courtroom when asked why he had purchased the notes. Investigators found that the man had purchased 10 fake €50 notes from a darknet market vendor. The purchase took place at some point in May 2015. He picked the notes up nearly one month later at a packing station in Weil am Rhein. The 29-year-old had been travelling when he placed the order. However, when he finally picked the notes up in Germany, he saw their poor quality and chose not to spend the notes. He even spoke to one of his friends—a lawyer—about the notes. The lawyer told him a story about “someone was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a fake note.”
He got rid of the notes and moved on with his life. He travelled to several countries in between 2015 and his late 2017 arrest. On September 2017, the man had planned a trip home to visit his family. Authorities in Madrid arrested him at the airport and immediately threw him in jail. They beat him twice, he told the court. He said they placed him in extradition custody for 10 days before shipping him to Frankfurt, Germany. He arrived in Frankfurt without luggage, money, or a way to get home. His mother found out what had happened and secured his release in Germany.
German authorities released him and the man flew home to his family. He later returned to court in Germany to face the charges. He learned that shortly after he had purchased the counterfeit notes, Italian police investigated a counterfeit vendor on the darknet who sold fake notes to customers across Europe. After a brief investigation, authorities arrested the vendor and seized a USB drive. On the drive, investigators said, the vendor had maintained a list of customers. One of those customers was the 29-year-old man.
After hearing that he had torn the notes up not long after receiving them, the prosecution asked for a sentence that fit the man’s “less serious” counterfeiting crime. She wanted eight months on probation. The defendant’s lawyer wanted six months on probation. The court found six months on probation to be a fitting punishment, considering the fact that the bills never entered circulation.